Recap: UCLA Mr. Hillel Male Beauty Pageant Brought The Best Out Of 8 Nice Jewish Boys

The largely anticipated annual 2019 Mr. Hillel Contest at UCLA did not disappoint. The wonderful event starred 8 of UCLA’s favorite Jewish boys, each of who showcased their incredible, out of the ordinary talents for their fellow peers to judge. Overall, the event was a success, and to say it was a “fun time” would be an understatement. UCLA Sophomores Niaz Sassounian and Noie Manor hosted the evening with skits that showcased their wit, humor and nonchalant outfit changes. The hosts and contestants were joined by their supportive families and friends, which made for a pumped up audience. The night was a hit, and it’s time to find out who stole the heart of the 250+ attendees and won a donation of $1500 for the charity of their choice.

Contestant #1: Jason Shube 

First up was Orange County native, Alpha Epsilon Pi brother, super edgy and mysterious, Jason Schube. This boy managed to crush EIGHT empty plastic water bottles, swallow a pink balloon whole and also attempt to throw several plastic knives at an apple resting on his volunteer’s head... he missed consecutively! All this talent was overlaid by America’s Got Talent style spooky music, intensifying the act and all that could go wrong. But in all seriousness, Jason was hilarious, and I was left with a mix of uncontrolled coughs and laughs through it all.

Contestant #2: Justin Feldman

Following Schube’s realm of multiple talents was Justin Feldman, featuring Brandon Sedaghat and Orr Amar, who accompanied the act seamlessly. Justin’s act included multiple hit dance moves, including those of Fortnite descent, such as Orange Justice and the one all dentists love, the Floss. Each of these moves were danced to memed-up versions of classic childhood hits, making the performance both comedic and touching. Each song transitioned so perfectly to the next, it felt like I traveled through 2001 to 2006 in less than 10 minutes.

Contestant #3: Zack Zernick

Up next was Jewish sweetheart, Zach Zernick, who ripped the matzah right out of the back of my grandma’s pantry with his iconic rendition of Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song. This parody included references to his fellow AEPI boys, Hanukkah traditions that most teens don’t tell their parents about and occasional roasts on the UCLA Jewry. All joined by Rocky Klein’s acoustics, this act was one for the books. Adam Sandler, watch out. An NJB just threatened your iconic Hanukkah bop.

Contestant #4: Lior Behdadnia

The next suspect was the Persian Community at Hillel’s all-time favorite, Lior Behdadnia. Creating his very own rap with the help of a completely in-sync dance team, the audience’s jaws were dropped for all 5 minutes. We can’t forget the constant cheering coming from the audience, mostly from his mom, creating an atmosphere of utter support. Joined by the perfect beat, smooth moves and even color coordination, there was no room for complaints here.

Contestant #5: Jordan Yanowitz

It was then time for a superb track to be covered by our favorite environmentalist on the flute, Jordan Yanowitz. With his charity being one dedicated towards animal conservation, the song choice "Africa" was of no surprise, featuring a Sub-Saharan slideshow playing in the background. The audience caught a constant stream of Lion King flashbacks, creating a homey-feel. Jordan killed it, and the audience probably was left wanting to learn how to play "Africa" on the flute now. I may have already learned the first verse. 

Contestant #6: Aaron Rubanowitz

The talent did not stop there. Taking the stage by storm was Aaron Rubanowitz with his incredible skit of a New York City Veteran working at a McDonald's. Being the least of ordinary, his NYC accent could not be questioned along with his spot on character, making us all feel like he really was a New York City veteran. Following such, his epic role as an ♬ "apple dipped in honey for Rosh Hashana" ♬, the audience was sure to be both amazed by his theatre skills, as well as his incredible impersonation of a good ol' apple. We would be lying to say we didn't crave that combination post show.

Contestant #7: Noah Keith

The artsy NJBs kept coming along; Noah Keith stunned the room with his show-stopping cover of, “If I Were A Rich Man” from Fiddler On The Roof. I felt like my dad had just popped the film into our DVD player, begging my family to watch it with him for the hundredth time. But I could not complain because the song is truly a masterpiece. And yes, Noah brought it all. The dancing, the singing, the subtle comments in between… it was spot on!

Contestant #8: Brandon Broukhim

Lastly was Brandon Broukhim with his solo lip sync battle featuring a number of ABBA classics. That lip syncing was better than anything Channing Tatum could ever do on the Late Late Show with James Corden–I mean, I thought it was Channing performing at some point. Bringing love to the room with his sprinkling of rose petals over the audience and judges, he was sure to steal all of our hearts.

All 8 contestants had great things to bring to Ackerman Grand Central Ballroom, but who made the audience’s heart feel that much fuller? Who stole the people’s hearts, and those of the judges? *Virtual drum roll…*

The Nicest, Nice Jewish Boys

The People’s Choice Winner was Lior Behdadnia and Judges' pick for Mr. Hillel was Aaron Rubanowitz. Lior received $375 donation to Chai Life Line and Aaron's charity, Hope of the Valley, received a donation of $1,125.

When speaking to the two winners after the competition, Lior mentioned his secret to winning the crown was his supportive team: "I wouldn't have been able to do it without the Hillel staff involved, and most especially my manager Natan. He put in a lot of work and effort so we could put on a great show!"

Aaron, the 2019 "Mr. Hillel" winner, mentioned the importance of being himself, showing his personality, and having fun throughout the entire competition. "I wanted to show a range of personality for the show. For the talent portion, I thought the monologue would allow me to show a sense of seriousness which would contrast nicely with me prancing around as an apple in red tights, dipping myself in honey. But most importantly, I went into the show with the mindset of just having fun with my friends and I did just that."

While both gentlemen took home a crown, sash, and bragging rights, they also will receive the honor of having a drink named after them at the Coffee Bean located inside Hillel at UCLA. For more information and updates on the special themed drinks, check out Hillel at UCLA